The live-action remake of Disney’s 1989 film The Little Mermaid can’t come soon enough. Set for release on May 26, 2023, the film will star Halle Bailey as Ariel and has been years in the making. Now 22 years old, Bailey auditioned for the role when she was 18 years old. The project was announced in 2019 and wrapped in July 2021 – a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel so grateful to have experienced this film in all of its glory,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “It has been the toughest experience being away from everything and everyone I’ve ever known, to feeling self doubt/ loneliness, but also feeling such freedom and perseverance as I’ve reached the end. This experience has made me so much stronger than I ever thought I could be.”
The Little Mermaid was shot in both the U.K. and Sardinia, Italy, according to Variety. It was the longest Bailey had been away from her family in California.
Bailey is also the first Black lead actress to be cast in a Disney live-action remake. The only Black actor to have taken on the role of a Disney princess was Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. “I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special and that they should be a princess in every single way,” Bailey told Variety about how much the role means to her as a Black woman. “What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything,” she added.
When news broke that Halle Bailey would be taking on the role of Ariel, online trolls started pushing back against the idea. The hashtag #NotMyAriel was started online. Bailey says that her family helped her face the backlash. Her grandparents helped her gain perspective by sharing their own experiences with racism. “It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,’” Bailey told Variety.
The Little Mermaid will be directed by Rob Marshall, who adapted Chicago and Into the Woods. He shared that Bailey’s signature locs will be part of her look as Ariel. “She looks stunning in red hair; not everybody does,” he told the outlet.
The Disney film will also star a slew of other talented and fan-favorite actors. Melissa McCarthy will be taking on the role of Ursula, Javier Bardem will be playing King Triton and Awkwafina will be voicing Scuttle the seagull, as per Insider. Daveed Diggs will be voicing Sebastian, Ariel’s best friend, confidant, and wingman. The Little Mermaid will also feature a new character played by Noma Dumezweni, who was cast as Hermione Granger in the theater production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Simone Ashley will also have a part in the film.
When discussing The Little Mermaid, it’s impossible not to mention the Disney score that has inspired generations of children. The film will include music from the original movie, as well as three to four new tracks developed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken, reports Insider.
The Little Mermaid has been years in the making and Bailey can’t wait for the world to see it. She told Variety that it feels like she’s lived a whole other life since wrapping up filming.
“I’m grateful for it because it makes me slow down and cherish the moment that I’m living in now,” she said. “I was talking to my sister about it the other day, because I’m like, ‘I’ve been working so hard. I just want people to see it already, to see what I’ve been putting all my effort into.’” Her sister, ride or die, and longtime collaborator Chloe Bailey replied: “It’s all going to pay off.”
Photo Credit: HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 11: Halle Bailey attends Variety’s 2022 Power of Young Hollywood celebration presented by Facebook Gaming on August 11, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
About Kyra: Kyra Alessandrini is a news writer at Girls United and a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in publications such as Time, The Hollywood Reporter, InStyle, and Elle. Born in New York and raised in Paris, France, she is passionate about culture, street photography, and travel.